Editorial: Somewhere Down the Road (Finding Comfort During a Coronavirus Pandemic)

Vince Gill and Amy Grant on last night’s Opry Livestream

I grew up listening to Amy Grant. I owned all of her vinyl albums in those halcyon, pre-compact-disc days, and my church youth group would always head out to see her perform whenever she came to Winnipeg. Even though I now consider myself an atheist, I still turn to her music for comfort in times of stress and anxiety, depression and despair. Her soothing alto voice in well-known songs is still a respite, an oasis, a retreat. Despite my change in circumstances, I am still an unabashed fan.

Many LGBTQ people, like myself, have complicated, convoluted, and contentious personal histories with organized religion. For example, I met my wife through that same Lutheran church youth group and, like the two well-raised Transcona Lutherans we were, we followed the dictates and strictures of our church and got married (I was 24 and a virgin). After a painful short marriage, and our separation and divorce, we both came out of the closet. (The dress my ex-wife wore for our official engagement photo was later donated to a Toronto drag queen.)

Last night, in an empty Grand Old Opry, Vince Gill and Amy Grant and their daughters put on a livestreamed performance (which you can watch here, the show starts at the 30:00 mark).

And I must admit I got chills down my spine when Amy sang her song Somewhere Down the Road, to which I know all the words by heart:

So much pain and no good reason why
You’ve cried until the tears run dry
And nothing here can make you understand
The one thing that you held so dear
Is slipping from your hands
And you say

Why, why, why
Does it go this way
Why, why, why
And all I can say is

Somewhere down the road
There’ll be answers to the questions
Somewhere down the road
Though we cannot see it now
Somewhere down the road
You will find mighty arms reaching for you
And they will hold the answers at the end of the road

Amy Grant, Vince Gill, and their daughters perform to a deserted Grand Old Opry

I hope that you also find some comfort in these difficult days, wherever that might be. Reach out to your friends and family, via FaceTime or Discord or Skype, to support each other. March has been a hard month, and April is going to be even harder.

I have kept my list of mental health resources during the coronavirus pandemic up-to-date as I find new items to share.

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Lessons Learned from the Educators in VR Conference

Lorelle VanFossen, one of the organizers of the wildly successful six-day Educators in VR 2020 International Summit, recently wrote up a very detailed blogpost outlining the experience of setting up and running a virtual conference on AltspaceVR and four other social VR platforms.

Here’s a link to the entire article on the Educators in VR website, and I would very strongly encourage you to read it in full. However, I will highlight just a couple of things that the Educators in VR group co-founders Daniel Dyboski-Bryant and Lorelle VanFossen, and their hard-working team of volunteers, learned along the way.

Their original plan was only to have 40 to 60 speakers, but that ballooned to 170 speakers in over 150 events spread over 6 days (happening at time zones around the clock for a global audience). Because everybody volunteered their time and energy for this free-to-attend event, the total costs for the entire six-day virtual conference were only around US$300! (Try doing that for a real-world conference!)

Most of the events were held in AltspaceVR:

As our home-base is currently AltspaceVR, we worked with our Educators in VR team and the AltspaceVR events team to ensure our event spaces would be safe and high performance to accommodate a variety of devices. While other virtual social and event platforms are usually limited to 20-50 attendees, AltspaceVR could be easily coaxed to larger room numbers and features the Front Row tool that allows for the mirroring of events spaces, allowing hundreds to thousands of attendees to view the experience from separate identical event spaces, improving overall user and device performance. Accordingly, we hosted the majority of our events in AltspaceVR.

In fact, the team behind AltspaceVR learned so much from hosting this conference that they just announced a slew of new features, including links to Patreon and EventBrite to allow for ticketed events in future!

I’m sure that many new users were introduced to AltspaceVR because of the Educators in VR conference, and both parties benefited from the partnership! The summit also gave ENGAGE, Rumii, Somnium Space, and Mozilla Hubs an opportunity to show off their platforms to those who never experienced them before, too.

Other conference organizers were quick to take note. HTC decided to have its annual Vive Ecosystem Conference in ENGAGE. And both Mozilla Hubs and AltspaceVR were used for the recently concluded IEEE VR 2020 conference, which, for the first time, was held entirely in virtual reality (and opened up for free to the general public) due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Hearty congratulations to Lorelle and Daniel, and a special shout-out to Donna McTaggart, the tireless Summit Coordinator and Manager, and her team of 75 volunteers!

I leave you with a one-and-a-half hour YouTube video where the organizers share what they learned behind the scenes, a must watch!

Lorelle ends her article by saying that they are now taking what they have learned from running the Educators in VR Summit and making that expertise available to others as consultants:

We’re developing training courses to help you produce your own virtual events of all sizes. The Educators in VR team is already providing consultation services to companies exploring virtual meetings and conferences, and negotiating production of virtual conferences and workshops for a variety of companies globally. We planned on taking our time, but with the demand for alternatives due to the COVID-19/coronavirus, we’re stepping up and into this as part of our range of services for working with business and academia to integrate virtual technologies.

If we can assist you, please contact us for more information.

Housekeeping Note: I Will Be Raising My Advertising Rates for This Blog on April 1st, 2020

I wanted to let everybody know that I am getting a lot more traffic to my blog these days (between 800 and 6,000 views per day), so I will be increasing my advertising rates, effective April 1st, 2020.

This is your opportunity to lock in the current advertising rates before I increase them!


My current advertising rates are:

RyanSchultz.com Ad Campaign Rates until March 31, 2020 (all in U.S. Dollars)

For 250×250 pixel square sidebar ads:
(a) 30 days/1 month: US$10.00
(b) 90 days/3 months: US$25.00
(c) 180 days/6 months: US$40.00
(d) 365 days/1 year: US$70.00


On April 1st, 2020, my advertising rates will be:

RyanSchultz.com Ad Campaign Rates as of April 1, 2020 (all in U.S. Dollars)

For 250×250 pixel square sidebar ads:
(a) 30 days/1 month: US$20.00
(b) 90 days/3 months: US$50.00
(c) 180 days/6 months: US$80.00
(d) 365 days/1 year: US$120.00


For complete details on advertising on my blog (how to submit payment, etc.), please click here. I do reserve the right to accept or reject any advertising proposals.

Prairie Voices: Ilus Ta Ei Ole

Sign on a Winnipeg Transit bus (source)

As I have written before, Winnipeg is a very special place with its own quirky charm and unique sense of humour. Frankly, I can’t think of any other place I would rather be during a pandemic lockdown.

Because of its relative isolation compared to other cities, Winnipeggers have developed many home-grown arts, cultural, and entertainment events and institutions. For example, the city is home to a large number of community choirs and choruses. (For ten years, I sang tenor with The Rainbow Harmony Project, Winnipeg’s LGBTQ2* Chorus, a time I remember fondly.)

Another well-known Winnipeg community chorus is Prairie Voices, a choir of 18- to 25-year-olds, which released the following music video on YouTube with the preface:

Like so many in the music community, we had to cancel our concert on March 14th, 2020. It was heart breaking. So we decided to channel that heartbreak into creating this video.

This is “Ilus Ta Ei Ole” (“It is not beautiful”) by Pärt Uusberg.

The text begins by describing things that seem ordinary and mundane. But it ends with the realization that all those same things, when put together, are actually extraordinary and beautiful.

We’ve seen this exact same thing happen with the COVID-19 pandemic: humanity is coming together with each of us doing our own small part to keep each other safe and well.

As individuals, we can only achieve so much, but together we can achieve anything.

Together, we can create beauty.

The conductor sent out a video of himself conducting the piece. The choristers recorded themselves on their phones singing their parts. The recordings and videos were compiled together and edited into this incredible video by two members of the choir.

I hope this slow-building, beautiful piece—and the way this video was constructed—inspires you as much as it inspired me tonight, at the end of a stressful, anxious day.